Quito - Ecuador
Attractions of South America e-Book

Quito

Quito lies in a wonderful lush valley on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano in the midst of the impressive Andes. It is the second highest (2,850 meters/9,300 feet) capital of the world. As the 'historical center' with it is charming colonial houses and churches of Quito became too small a 'new city' was built with modern skyscrapers, broad avenues and urban parks.

It is an excellent place to set out on adventure travel in Quito and/or Ecuador or to learn Spanish in one of the outstanding language schools the city has to offer.


Quito is the capital of Ecuador. The name means, in the language of the Tsáchila or Colored Indians, center (Quitsa) of the world (To). Quito not only has the biggest historical center in South America but also one of the most beautiful historical centers of the Americas.

The cultural heritage of Quito was so important that it was the first city in the world to be declared World Heritage Cultural Site by UNESCO in 1978.


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Things to do

Quito - The Old City The city is divided in two parts. The amazing historical center is called The Old City and is located in the North. In the South, The New City boasts with modern buildings, broad avenues and urban parks. Both parts live together in perfect harmony. The old city offers the must see historical buildings, the new city displays an array of restaurants, language schools, movie theaters and discotheques.

The Old City

The historical center in the old city was appointed the first UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site in 1978. It is a very picturesque sight with streets sided with amazing colonial houses and buildings.

Plaza de la Independencia

This is the biggest square in Quito and you'll find yourself strolling here many times. It became the main square of Quito in the 16th century. The Metropolitan Cathedral (south), the City Hall (east), the Government Palace (west), the Archbishop’s Palace (north) can be found here. The square is really enchanting when the buildings are lighted after dark.

The cathedral was built in the 16th century. Inside, there is a good collection of art from the Quiteña school, including works by Caspicara and Manuel Samaniego.

The most interesting building is the Government Palace. It has an interesting mixture of
Spanish/Moorish architecture. Don't miss the impressive 1966 mural by Guayasamín of Orellana discovering the Amazon. There is a chain-fence at the entrance but you can just happily ignore this and play the curious innocent tourist.

The Archbishop's Palace was built in 1852 and has an Andalusian/Moorish-inspired courtyard (the floor of the courtyard is made from the spines of pigs). A crafts market (unofficial) is held here.

Plaza and San Francisco Church

San Francisco Church in Quito, Ecuador The church of San Francisco is the oldest church in South America. Construction began in 1535, just 1 month after the Spanish arrived here, and it took a long time (more than 100 years) to finish.

You'll notice that Plaza San Francisco is distinctly sloped; for several hundred years, it was assumed that it followed the shape of the Earth.

However, a group of archaeologists recently discovered that San Francisco was built over an Inca temple, which is the reason why the actual church is much higher than other structures in Quito.

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El Panecillo - Virgin Monument in Quito, Ecuador El Panecillo/Virgin Monument

From a distance, the hill that hosts a huge statue of the winged virgin does indeed look like a panecillo (small bread roll). Since it is directly south of the city, this hill was an ideal spot to construct the 45m-high (148-ft.) La Virgen de Quito, a copy of Bernardo de Lagarda's La Virgen de Quito sculpture that is on display on the main altar in the San Francisco church.

The panecillo stands at about 3,000 meters (9,840 feet), so you can also see the sculpture from the center of Quito.

On clear days you can see the amazing Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano of the world, 50 km away.


Parks

Parque Metropolitano is the largest urban park in South America. The park is located in the north of Quito, on the hillside, behind the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium. The park is an excellent place for mountain biking, walking, running or just exploring the different sculptures that are display for the public. The park has 4 sites where you can bring your family and friends to have a picnic or a barbecue. The backside of the park has a beautiful view of Cotopaxi, Antisana and the Guayllabamba river basin.

La Carolina Park is the place to be on Sundays. You will be among thousands of Quiteños playing fútbol (soccer), básket (basketball), ecua-volley (volleyball with less emphasis on spiking to score; more of a throw and it allows using your feet like soccer), doing aerobics, flying kites, running, snacking or just observing the thralls of people just walking around.

The park is situated on the Northern area of Quito not too far from the shopping district. The Southern part of the park has a small pond where you can rent paddle boats. There are also many artists performing on weekends. In the western part of the park you will find the Quito Exhibition Center with different exhibits every month.

El Ejido is the park situated between the old part of the city and the modern section. Here you will find handicrafts every Saturday and Sunday. Local painters sell Oswaldo Guayasamín, Eduardo Kingman or Gonzalo Endara Crow copies and Otavaleños are selling traditional sweaters and carpets.

La Alameda Park has the oldest astronomical observatory in South America. The park has a monument of Simón Bolívar and a small lake where families like to rent boats.


Aerial tramway to Cruz Loma

Since July 2005, Quito has an aerial tramway, known as the "Teleférico," from the city center to the hill known as Cruz Loma on the east side of the Pichincha volcano. Besides the amazing view of the whole city, there are other attractions like the "Vulcan Park" (an amusement park), shopping malls and restaurants.



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Must See Places in Ecuador
Galapagos Islands Cuenca Cotopaxi
Galapagos Islands Cuenca Cotopaxi


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© All photographs by Mark Van Overmeire*

*Photo "Church - Quito" by Ryan Fox | Dreamstime.com
Photo "Quito: Winged Virgin" by John Sigler | Agency: Getty Images